Spiritual But Not Religious
It doesn't shock me, it doesn't offend me, it's not a unique, interesting identity, it's a cliche. If it's meant to be a conversation-starter, I can't see how. Perhaps, "So tell me about the religion of Self you've concocted from bits and pieces of your rejected religious upbringing, your reading, your intermittent attendance in houses of worship and your acquaintance with pop psychology? I'm just dying to know!"
I am committed to church life. I believe in salvation through church/synagogue/sangha/etc.
I know that the label "S.B.N.R." may be an expression of painful disenchantment or abuse by organized (or disorganized) religion, but a lot of the time, it's just not. I meet people all the time with truly unconventional spiritual lives, paths and interests who never feel the need to use this particularly jejune label; let's retire it! What is meant to sound so brave and unique about "S.B.N.R." functions instead for me as shorthand for, "I, a consummate member of the consumer culture, have not found a religious product that suits my needs, a religious community and tradition that maintains my comfort level, and a worship tradition that suits my schedule. Therefore, I choose not to partake. And that makes me a rugged individualist, and therefore superior to the rest of you kneeling and hymn-singing drones." The latter point is often implied by that kind of "I've thrown my gauntlet down" tone that makes me want to crawl under the table with my blankie and take a nap.
So what I know about that Mr. or Ms. SBNR is this: Instead of being willing to form their character and forge their spirit within the itchy, difficult, often uncomfortable crucible of covenanted community, that SBNR guy or gal sits on the sidelines, judging and critiquing the liturgies and theologies and personalities of the actively religious, staying away because details of community life irritate them, reading and filling his/her head with exactly what suits their current world view, surrounding themselves with exactly those people who agree with them on most important issues (a favor which extends to reinforcing their self-image), and -- worst of all -- thinking of themselves as counter-cultural! Hence my weariness. Counter cultural? Yes, our current administration is crazy bad religious. Yes, 80%+ Americans say they believe in God. So what? Belief in God doesn't make someone religious. Being bound by the claims of a religious tradition and a religious community makes someone religious -- committing to a regular, transforming, shared spiritual experience and encounter-- ESPECIALLY WITH THOSE YOU WOULDN'T PICK TO BE YOUR PALS -- that's the heart of religion, whose root word means "to bind together."
Maybe the Spiritual But Not Religious person is bound in mutual accountability and spiritual growth through some means other than the church or synagogue or mosque or ashram or sangha or the theatre or the Cause or the 12-Step Program, etc. I sincerely hope so. But if he isn't, taking smug pride in claiming to be S.B.N.R is just sad to me; sad and floppy and a source of woefully misguided self-satisfaction.